Updated: Jan 13, 2020
A grain in nature is essentially the entire seed of the plant made up of the bran, germ, and endosperm. Refining or processing grains (white rice, white pasta, white bread, etc) removes the germ and the bran (also known as fiber). It also removes some protein and other essential nutrients such as phytonutrients, B vitamins, iron, folate, selenium, potassium and magnesium.
Whole grains have been researched extensively with lots of evidence supporting health benefits. They’re naturally high in fiber, helping you feel full and satisfied, which makes it easier to maintain a healthy body weight. They can be a good source of many micronutrients including iron, selenium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc and copper. Many of them are also high in protein. For those who shun carbohydrates, you don’t need much to get a lot of fiber. Consider adding grains as a side dish or in a stir fry, salad or breakfast bowl. As little as two .5 -1 cup servings a day can offer big health benefits. Fiber can range from 4-8 grams for one cooked cup of grains.
Potential benefits of grains include preventing colon cancer, reducing risk of heart disease and stroke, lowering blood pressure, preventing diabetes and managing blood sugar, reducing inflammation and helping with weight loss.
Take rice for example—brown rice is better than white because white rice has been stripped of its fiber as well as essential vitamins and minerals. Brown rice has four times more fiber (4 grams per cup cooked brown rice) than white rice (zero fiber!), including prebiotic fiber that helps to foster good gut bacteria.
What about red and black rice? Glad you asked! The phytonutrient that gives red and black rice their colorful pigments is anthocyanin, the same phytonutrient that gives blueberries, beets and cherries their deep purple and red colors. Anthocyanins have anti-inflammatory effects, protect against carcinogens and may help prevent heart disease, lower blood pressure and improve cognition. Both red and black rice have double the fiber of brown rice with 8 grams of fiber per cup of cooked rice.
Have you changed your mind about the awesomeness of whole grains (a.k.a. carbs!) yet? If not, this one should do it: One study shows that a spoonful of black rice bran (equivalent to ten spoonfuls of cooked black rice) contains the same amount of antioxidants as a spoonful of fresh blueberries. That's some serious antioxidant power!
Enjoy your whole grains knowing you're doing something good for your body.